Bryan Long of Better Georgia has issued a petition to “tell the Gov. Deal that we want executive appointments to reflect what Georgia really looks like and all the people who live in Georgia — and not just who donates to the Governor’s campaigns.”
This comes in the wake of recent comments by State Sen. Vincent Fort, noting that the overwhelming majority of Governor Nathan Deal’s political appointments have been white and male. Politifact rated Fort’s assertion as half-true because Fort underestimated the number of nonwhite appointees. Fort said it was three percent. The AJC says it’s seven percent.
Discussing either figure misses the point, as does some convoluted discussion about qualifications or affirmative action or equal opportunity or racial set-asides. I like Better Georgia. A lot. I like hardball progressive media relations. But they’re barking up the wrong tree here.
You see, Deal’s first obligation when making political appointments in the execrable spoils system that is patronage politics in Georgia is to hire Republicans. The first qualification for a political appointment when the governor is a Republican is to be a Republican. If you’re not a registered Republican, generally speaking, you need not apply.
There’s nothing inherently racist about that. If a job around here was truly meant to be nonpartisan, it should be subject to civil service rules. But we’re talking about party hacks.
As George Washington Plunkitt, the great philosopher of Tammany Hall said, “This civil service law is the biggest fraud of the age. It is the curse of the nation. There can’t be no real patriotism while it lasts. How are you goin’ to interest our young men in their country if you have no offices to give them when they work for their party? … There was once a bright young man in my district who tackled one of these examinations. The next I heard of him he had settled down in Herr Most’s saloon smokin’ and drinkin’ beer and talkin’ socialism all day. Before that time he had never drank anything but whisky.”
Now, is Deal discriminating against nonwhite or female Republican candidates for political jobs? Probably not.
In general, Georgia Republicans have had trouble gaining the support of black voters. In 2010, less than 3 percent of the state’s black voters cast ballots in the Republican primary, according to Emory University assistant political science professor Andra Gillespie. The professor cautioned that primary turnouts are typically low, so some black Republicans may have stayed home. She added that since Georgia has open primaries, some black voters who cast ballots in that primary may not typically side with the GOP. University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock estimated that 5 percent of black voters statewide cast their ballots for Deal.
I strongly suspect the observation that 93 percent of Deal’s political appointments are white is proportionately representative of the number Republican operatives in Georgia who are white. I’m betting 70 percent of the party’s operatives are men, too.
That’s a bigger problem for the party, of course. I suspect if the Republican Party spent more time fighting discrimination in society at large, it could attract more women and nonwhite voters to its ranks and thus into its sphere of political appointments, instead of contemplating how to clone Michael McNeely, Melvin Everson and Vivian Childs twenty times each.
Suppose, for the sake of discussion, the governor was a Democrat. About 45 percent of the state is nonwhite, but roughly 80 percent of the state’s Democratic Party is nonwhite. Only about one in four white voters in Georgia are Democrats and few nonwhite voters cast Republican ballots. Would it surprise anyone if four out of five political appointees under a Democratic governor were black, Latino or Asian? I can imagine all of the caterwauling about “affirmative action” hires, but that result would be reflective of the pool of Democratic applicants.
Remember that, when next you’re questioning the qualifications of political appointees in DeKalb and Fulton County.
This dynamic is what makes Deal’s action on the DeKalb school board mess stick out so starkly. His appointments appear to have mirrored the political and racial composition of the elected board; patronage considerations seem to have played no part in the process. I think he gets far too little credit for that.
The larger question might be to ask why there are 800 political appointees in state government in the first place. Does Georgia — which has a well-documented problem with political corruption — really need more than 800 positions subject to political appointment by the Governor’s office?